Midwest / Central Indiana

2022 District Awards

November 17, 2022

On Saturday, November 5, 2022, USTA Central Indiana hosted our 2022 Awards Ceremony. Appropriately held in the Midwest Tennis Hall of Fame, attendees were representative of the district's best tennis advocates!


Our Board, Past Presidents, award recipients along with their friends and family all gathered to celebrate the accomplishments of the honorees. We were pleased to award the following:


Barbara S. Wynne Junior Sportsmanship Award

For a high degree of sportsmanship, playing ability and mental attitude


Adia Buckalew
NJTL of Indianapolis advanced-level participant

"I started playing tennis around the age of 8. 

My parents had the rule that you always had to participate in something. The first summer I played tennis was at Ellenberger Park with the NJTL of Indianapolis seven years ago. I learned a lot that summer and had a lot of fun. I enjoyed tennis so much, I continued to play every session.


There were times I felt like I struggled, but I learned not to give up. After a few years, I tried out for Level 2 with the NJTL and made it. Then, a year later, I tried out for Level 3 and made it.


My parents told me to try hard and give it my all because someone is always watching, whether it's a child looking up to you or a coach. My coaches and instructors told me to not give up because I am a good tennis player and tennis can open up opportunities for me, like college. If someone sees me giving up, that could ruin those future opportunities.


Tennis also taught me to put in effort and energy. This summer, I was given a chance to teach younger kids how to play tennis. I was nervous going into it but realized that I was one of those kids a long time ago. My instructors taught me to have fun and that is what I hope I taught these children, too."


"Adia goes out of her way to assist the instructors when needed. According to her mother, it took a lot for her to overcome her shyness and lead classes, but she ultimately decided to do it and gained public-speaking experience and leadership skills. When we asked her to assist with our annual fundraiser and hit with donors, she was out there for hours on a hot day to help the NJTL of Indianapolis raise dollars. We hope she can become a full-time instructor next year." — from the nomination 

Wilbur Schumacher Junior Sportsmanship Memorial Award

For a high degree of sportsmanship, playing ability and mental attitude

Ezekiel Bergen
USTA Junior Team Tennis participant from Portland, Indiana


"I started playing tennis five years ago when I was 10 years old. I had just healed from a broken leg and wanted to get active again. That’s when I met my first coach, Taghi, and he taught me to fall in love with the game. It motivated me to get better.


Over the five years of playing, I have majorly changed. I’ve gotten stronger and faster, and I also started eating healthier. The best piece of advice I have ever received came from Taghi. The advice was, “Move on, it’s over!” It really helped my tennis game mentally. It has also been useful for the big moments in matches. In tennis, I struggled to control my emotions at times. Now all I hear in my head is Taghi telling me, “Move on, it’s over.”


My current coach, Jordan, allowed me to do some instructing this summer at the Terre Haute Junior Tennis beginner’s clinic. That is when I learned that I love coaching. Tennis has taught me how to make other people feel good about themselves. I worked with a kid named Alan and at first, he was struggling and didn’t know how to keep the score. By the end of day, he loved tennis and was having fun. He looked at me and said, 'I feel like I can do anything.' That’s when I realized I can make an impact on someone’s life.


In the future, I hope tennis will give me a good job that I can do for the rest of my life. I would like to continue teaching kids and making an impact on their lives like coaches have done for me. I’m also hoping I can go to college and play while I study business so that maybe one day, I can open my own racquet club. I have always heard my mom say, 'If you do what you love, you never work a day in your life!'"


“During the summer of 2022, Zeke played on a Junior Team Tennis team that advanced to the District level. Each team was given one Sportsmanship pin to award to an opposing player following the first round. The opponent gave it to Zeke. One thing I truly applaud him for is that even if Zeke loses his first-round match at a tournament, he stays and plays every match he is scheduled to play, whether it affects his score or UTR or not. Zeke would never consider withdrawing from a tournament once he loses in the main draw.” — from the nomination

Joe Graham Memorial Award

For the USTA League Captain of the Year


Nikki Barrett Captain
2021 & 2022 Indiana State Champions, Adult 18 & Over 4.0 Women


"I’ve been playing tennis for 16 years. I played a year at Perry Meridian High School. My best friend and I were also the managers for the boys’ tennis team for three years, and it was exciting to get out of school early to travel with them to North Central when they made it to semi-state one year. With that experience and watching the former RCA tournament downtown, I developed a strong passion for tennis. I got back into it as an adult. Most of what I learned came from Steve Wakefield.


I love tennis because it embodies friendship, fitness and fun, and it’s a lifelong sport. I first started playing matches in 2007 and it wasn’t too long before I took over captaining. I’m an organized person, so it fits with my personality. I’ve been doing it for more than 10 years now, even after I stopped competing in USTA myself. I didn’t want to lose my tennis friendships and I wanted to stay involved in the USTA. Tennis has given me the opportunity to meet many amazing people, some of whom have become my closest friends.


Of course, I’ve had many great memories of my teams winning big matches (we have been to Midwest Sectionals three times, including this year) but my favorite tennis memory is when my oldest son, Jackson, and his doubles partner beat Avon in the individual regional match that advanced them to the state championship. They had lost a close one to Avon at conference earlier in the season, so it was very exciting to see them overcome that and have a great ending to their senior year."


“Nikki is passionate about sharing the joy of tennis. She captains multiple teams and embodies all of the qualities that make the USTA Central Indiana league a model for others. She is truly the best captain I have ever played for.” — from the nomination

Joe Graham Memorial Award

For the USTA League Captain of the Year


Gayle Markwell
Veteran USTA captain


"When our children graduated and moved away, and our dog died, I decided to pick up the 'stick' and try to become a tennis player. I have actively been playing tennis, or at least trying to, since 2006. I joined a couple drill groups at Tri-State Athletic Club in Evansville, then joined a USTA team, and that was where the real learning took place.


I started out captaining one team in 2011 and somehow it grew to 10 in 2022. I was the coordinator of my daughter’s grade-school tennis league 30 years ago, and now some of those young ladies play on my USTA teams. I have been blessed to have wonderful, kind and talented teammates who I consider family. Our 3.5 18+ team, in particular, is a bit unique in that the ages of our players span six decades.


My best tennis memory took place up north at the Carmel Racquet Club. The first team I ever captained advanced to Districts. I remember stepping out of my car, nervous and frozen in my footsteps. One of my teammates gave me a hug and a word of encouragement and led me to the entrance. I played Leah Jamison in singles. Our points were extremely long. I battled my way to a 6-4 first-set win. We were constantly interrupted by balls rolling onto our court, forcing us to replay many of the already-long points. I lost the second set 6-7 and the match tiebreak, too. Match time: three hours, 38 minutes.


You are probably wondering why this is my best tennis memory if I lost. It’s because I was 60 years old at the time. I certainly didn't expect to be playing marathon singles matches at 60, let alone at the District level. But a captain has to do what a captain has to do."


“In 2011, some tennis friends and I met for lunch at Panera to discuss our goal of improving and consistently competing at USTA District Championships. We asked Gayle to captain — the best decision of our tennis lives. At home, she grabbed a blue binder with the word 'calculus' written on the front from long ago by one of her children. As they say, the rest is history (rather than calculus). But there were numbers: 38 teams since 2011, recruiting players from three states, countless hours, dollars, logistics, win-loss records, lineups, dates, phone numbers, start times, weather reports, hotel rates and reservations as she thanklessly did the job of leading Team Panera and others to District and State tournaments every year since, all with dignity, grace and respect.” — from the nomination 

Brad Holmes Award

For volunteer service that promotes youth tennis at the local level


Kesara Chaiyawan Becker
Avon Community Tennis Association


"I moved from Thailand to the United States in 1990. My husband, Jim, was in the Peace Corps in Thailand (that's how we met) and he played a lot of tennis. When we returned, he taught me to play. I was 33 years old and really enjoyed it. I played a lot of local tournaments and got a scholarship to play tennis at a community college at 43 years of age.


I have been on the board of the Avon Community Tennis Association since it was formed in 2013. It has grown from 11 kids in the summer of 2010 to more than 160 kids last summer. At one point, we had more than 19 different languages spoken at the summer camp. This year, I filmed our clinics and uploaded them to YouTube for kids in Thailand to watch.


Tennis is the only sport I can play and I love it so much. I love to work with young players to give them opportunities to learn and become great tennis players. I believe everyone can learn to play tennis."


“Each year, Kesara finds and attracts new kids from every ethnic background to play tennis in Avon. The Avon boys had never won a sectional title before the CTA was founded, and now they have won six. Kesara is a great example of one person making a huge difference in the community.” — from the nomination 

Rick Van Horn Service Award

For continually striving to promote tennis on a local level

Abel Contreras
NJTL of Indianapolis volunteer


"I began playing tennis at age 8 through the NJTL summer program at Broad Ripple Park. I went on to win a state doubles championship at Brebeuf as a freshman and play Division I at Butler University from 1998 to 2002.


When I volunteer with the NJTL of Indianapolis, I see myself in many of the kids. One of my passions is furthering the participation and enthusiasm for tennis, especially for kids who lack the means to have an even playing field with those of greater resources. These kids love the game, try their hardest, want to get better and want to know who can help them succeed.


This fall, I made it a point to share with the kids a great Arthur Ashe quote: 'Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.' One boy asked me to repeat the quote to him the very next week to make sure he remembered it correctly. To me, the quote means that we eliminate the barriers, real or imagined, that prevent us from accomplishing what we want. Sometimes, we don't always succeed in our pursuits. However, we can give ourselves grace and start anew the next day or the next time we have another opportunity.


I look forward to continuing to volunteer with the NJTL of Indianapolis and the sport of tennis for years to come."


“Despite a busy schedule, Abel is always there when we ask him to volunteer. He has helped us with our IPS Fall League, leading lessons before matches begin, and at our fundraisers and community events. As a high-school state champion and an All Conference selection at Butler, he is the perfect volunteer to bring the sport to children who have never played before.” — from the nomination

Stan Malless Award

For great contributions through volunteering for five years or more


Ruth Grissom
Capitol City Tennis Club


"Growing up in inner-city Detroit, my first exposure to tennis came when I was a teenager. A group of neighborhood kids were hitting tennis balls in the middle of my street. No net, no court, just two racquets and a ball. One of my friends handed me the racquet and told me to give it a try. I rallied with another kid for about 30 minutes. By the end of my turn, I could rally for about 10 shots. The oldest kid told me that I was the best one out there, and I was hooked. When I enrolled at Butler University a few months later, I was thankful they offered a 'learn to play tennis' option. I took it twice!


I have been playing tennis around Indianapolis for nearly 40 years now. The Capitol City Tennis Club (CCTC) was my introduction to the local community. It was founded over 100 years ago, when Black tennis players weren't welcomed onto all the Indianapolis public tennis courts. But CCTC found ways to grow the sport of tennis within the Black community by teaching both adults and juniors. CCTC continues to share the love of tennis with all that have an interest by engaging with other community organizations and offering tennis lessons at our home courts on the Marion I. Rice tennis courts of Riverside Park.


Tennis has allowed me to meet people all over the city and the country. I have turned opponents into friends, and friends into family. I'm fortunate to have many great tennis memories, including playing lots of USTA matches, going to Nationals in 2018, winning my first MIDTAC singles trophy in 2002, winning my last MIDTAC mixed doubles trophy in 2022, playing club matches with the CCTC, and meeting my husband, Frank Morton, on a tennis court on the south side of Indy many moons ago. Sharing my love of tennis brings me joy, especially when I have a new player tell me they have found the love of the game, too."


“Ruth tirelessly supports MIDTAC and the Circle City Open, both of which promote diversity in the game. Each year, she shoulders the bulk of the responsibility. She is a true gem who always handles numerous obstacles with grace and humility.” — from the nomination 

Presidential Award

For outstanding and innovative contributions to promoting and growing the game


Judy Tilmont
USTA Central Indiana Executive Director, 2017–2022


"Working at USTA Central Indiana was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and a unique situation. I had a 'get to' job versus a 'got to' job. Every day, I woke up knowing that I was getting to work at this organization.


I didn’t come from a traditional tennis background. When I was young, I was a lifeguard and managed a swimming pool for a city park in Pennsylvania. When they built tennis courts, I was asked if I wanted to continue my summer job through the fall and manage the new pro shop at the courts. I took a few lessons and got hooked. I was a social player for many years until I was invited to join an adult league team. It was like a quantum leap to a different universe. That’s when I was really reeled in.


When I moved to Indianapolis, I joined IRC and played almost every day. When I saw the advertisement for the district's junior coordinator position, I applied because I figured it would save me money that I was spending on court time. I was grateful to Kimberly Hartzel, who hired me, for the opportunity of a new career after years of being self-employed.


I could not have been more surprised to hear that I was being given this award. I am honored that the committee, the board and board president Tiffany Squires considered me. The honor belongs to the entire Central Indiana staff, as I couldn’t have gotten more support from Toby Gaynor, Karen Griffiths and Cathy Rubey. I also owe a lot to the Central Indiana board for believing in every vision I had for the organization.


Thank you to all the people who were part of this journey. It was a great ride."



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